Myths About Cancer

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding cancer and its treatment. This causes confusion and unnecessary fear among patients and their caregivers.

This handout hopes to dispel some of these myths. If you have any additional questions or cause for concern, please feel free to consult your physician, nurse, or any counsellors.

A positive attitude can cure cancer. False

There is no scientific proof suggesting that a positive attitude will cure or beat cancer. However, a positive attitude does allow you to live a good quality of life. Having a positive attitude will help you make goals, plan your life, and be more engaged in your treatment. This way you will be able to take care of your health. It will also help you reach out to your loved ones for support.

If I take chemotherapy, I will not be able to go out and do my usual activities. False

A lot of effort has gone into making chemotherapy comfortable for patients. Many people opt to work part-time or continue working full time. Two of the possible side effects of chemotherapy are fatigue and decreased white blood cell count (leading to increased risk of infections). The fatigue may not allow you to be as active as you were prior to treatment. Sometimes even the cancer itself can lead to fatigue or weakness, due to which you may have to cut down on your usual activities. Furthermore, due to increased risk of infection, it is also advised that you do not go to closed, crowded places. Although certain adjustments have to be made, these DO NOT have to permanently curtail your activities. You just have to be careful (maybe more than you have been in the past), and avoid pushing yourself too much, too soon.

Treating cancer with surgery causes it to spread throughout the body. False

Treating cancer with surgery does not cause it to spread throughout the body. Surgery removes the malignant lump. At times, all the cancer cells are not removed with surgery, as they may be too small to detect. This is when surgery is followed by “adjuvant” chemotherapy or radiation. This ensures that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. Surgery is an important part of treatment in some cases.

Cancer is always painful. False

Cancer is not always painful; but there may be painful episodes. There are times when the tumor causes pain as they may be putting pressure on a nerve or a muscle. Most cancers in the early stages, however, do not cause pain. Pain can also be experienced during and post treatment. Nowadays, newer pain medications will effectively control any pain and allow you to maintain a good quality of life. Certain alternative treatments, such as relaxation techniques or Reiki also help in pain management.

Everyone with the same kind of cancer gets the same kind of treatment. False

Treatment is tailored to individual needs. The type of cancer, how much it has spread, and general health and body functions will determine your treatment. Cells from the same type of cancer might have different features in different people. These differences will affect how the cancer responds to treatment. The doctor, therefore, will be the best judge of what treatment option to follow.

Cancer is contagious. False

No type of cancer is contagious. Certain viruses such as HPV or Hepatitis C virus are contagious and can cause cancer. These viruses, however, are spread through unprotected sexual intercourse or by sharing needles.

All information sources are accurate. False

All information sources are NOT accurate. It is important that you go to reliable sources of information. Sometimes Internet sites and blogs may provide inaccurate information. Also, these sites may provide general information, when what you need is individual and more specific information. Please consult your physician or counsellor and ask them to refer you to accurate sources of information.

All lumps are cancerous. False

All lumps are not cancerous. There are certain fibrous lumps that are benign. Once a lump is detected, it is very important that you get it checked by a doctor and get appropriate tests conducted. Whether a lump is malignant can be determined only after tests such as mammograms and CT scans.

If parents have cancer, their children will definitely get cancer. False:

If any parent or first-degree relative has cancer, there is a no guarantee that the child will develop cancer. Some cancers such as breast, ovarian, and colon cancer are genetic, however, it does not definitely mean that one will develop cancer. Having a genetic history of cancer only increases the chance or likelihood of risk.

Breast Cancer FAQs

Do all patients with pain or lumps require investigations or biopsy?

Women commonly experience breast pain before their menstrual cycles as a result of pre-menstrual congestion of breast due to hormones. In this case, no further investigation other than breast examination by a breast specialist is required. Sometimes women present with painful lumps, but these lumps are most likely innocuous and an ultrasound is advised to rule out any other condition.

Ideally, a woman less than 40 years of age presenting with only breast pain should not have mammography as per guidelines. Women with lumps may be offered an ultrasound. Women over 40 years of age with or without symptoms should have a routine mammography done once in two years. Women over 40 years with pain or a lump should preferably undergo Digital Mammography with 3D Tomosynthesis as this is the most efficacious mammography available today. It improves the sensitivity of mammography by 50% as compared to conventional non digital mammography available in many hospitals. It also confers a huge benefit over the 2-D digital mammography available in some hospitals.

Ultrasound is advisable if a lesion is diagnosed. At Orchids, we have a very high definition state-of-the-art automated ultrasound equipment which provides much better accuracy as compared to ordinary ultrasound. Orchids is the only centre in Pune and one of three centres in India to have this equipment. This machine automatically performs the Ultrasound and is a huge advancement in breast imaging. In addition there is a new modality the elastography which helps us clearly differentiate a benign form a malignant lump

The combination of 3-D mammography along with the automated USG and elastography ensures a high degree of accuracy(more than 95%) in diagnosing a lump accurately and differentiating a benign ( Non-cancerous) from a Cancerous lump. Therefore just by proper imaging one can reduce the need for a biopsy of lumps to rule out cancer

How do we deal with benign lesion of the breast? Do they always need surgery?

Fibroids or fibroadenoma, papilloma and cyst are the most common benign or non-cancerous lesions of the breast. Breast fibroids, like the fibroids in the uterus are innocuous and more than 70% of fibroids will not increase in size over a woman's lifetime. They do not warrant any treatment unless they show a rapid growth in size on subsequent examination. When fibroids reach a size of more than 3 cm or show rapid growth, they are dealt at Orchids with Vacuum Assisted Biopsy (VAB) device. This is a non-invasive procedure in which a needle is passed which excises and sucks out fibroadenoma. This ensures a scarless and a stitchless operation which is done on an OPD basis with local anaesthesia without admission to the hospital and at a much lesser cost. A papilloma is a benign lesion that occurs within the ducts a most surgeons will do an excision (a removal of part of breast) by an open surgery. A papilloma can be excised again with the VAB device as well.

Cysts in the breast are a very common finding. These are innocuous and part of a physiological process and need no treatment. The women presenting with cysts only require counselling and reassurance.

How do we treat a suspicious looking lesion on a mammogram? Does it require an open surgery?

Not all suspicious lesions on mammogram and ultrasound are cancer. Core needle biopsy is the gold standard of diagnosis as it ensures that the lump is correctly diagnosed. The core needle is a needle of thin to moderate thickness that is inserted under local anaesthesia under ultrasound guidance and a tiny cores of the lump are removed for biopsy. If the core needle biopsy is positive for cancer then the patient is evaluated for further treatment. If the biopsy is negative for cancer and proves that the patient has benign lump, the patient needs no further treatment. Small lumps, i.e. less than 0.5 cm, can be biopsied very effectively with the VAB device. The VAb device ensures that the tiniest of lesions is biopsied with 100 % accuracy.

Orchids is equipped with a stereotactic biopsy by which a ROBOTIC arm is used to conduct a biopsy on patient with computer guidance. This is especially helpful to access lumps or calcifications which lie deep inside the breast and are not amenable for regular biopsy techniques. This is an OPD procedures with high precision and 100% accuracy rate.

Under no circumstances is an open surgery indicated for diagnosis of breast cancer.

Surgery is done only when a breast lump is proved beyond doubt to be a cancer. Such investigations avoid the burden of unnecessary surgeries that women are put through currently.

Do all the patients diagnosed with Breast Cancer need a mastectomy or breast removal?

No! The myth that complete removal of breast is tantamount to cure is now buried under fresh evidence in the literature that has shown that either preserving the breast in a superbly cosmetic manner or reconstructing the breast immediately is the order of the day. Global trends in breast cancer surgery indicate a paradigm-shift from conventional breast removal surgery or mastectomy to breast reconstruction or Oncoplastic Breast Surgery (OBS)

A study from Netherlands has provided evidence in support of better survival outcome in patients who have undergone breast preservation.

An ideal breast surgery ensures that the cancer is completely eliminated and the cosmetic result should show the least evidence of the surgical procedure.

Emergence of Oncoplastic surgery as the mainstream for Breast Cancer treatment

Oncoplastic Breast Surgery—a form of surgery that combines cancer surgery as well as plastic surgery to improve the cosmetic and surgical outcome of the patients—has emerged as mainstream option for the treatment of breast cancer.

Coping With Cancer



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